Reading the first issue of Victor LaValle’s Destroyer, arriving in comic shops today, on May 24th, from Boom! Studios I was struck by what writer Victor LaValle and artist Dietrich Smith have to say about a wild and elemental force that can level the goals of civilization. And in a book that’s about a modern day Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster, you’d think that force was something to do with the power of life or death, or maybe science as a whole, but instead the force in the title, “Destroyer” may really be human anger.
[Cover by Micaela Dawn]
It’s anger in the face of things we can’t control, but our vast abilities to dream and do conjure up ways to get revenge, and make some kind of meaningful statement, even a negative one, out of what we can’t direct. In this first issue of our story, we come across a whaling ship busy hunting whales, and a protest organization trying to stop the killing. Meanwhile, a Frankenstein’s monster who has endured over 200 years locked in an icy land, becomes a focal point of anger.
The monster turns out to abhor humankind’s attack on the whales, and gets terrible, terrible revenge on their killing. But it turns out that some humans are so angry, too, that they’d condone the deaths of the whalers, and more. This whole episode opening the comic acts as a really strong thematic statement about what’s to come in the series–a meditation on anger and the ways in which it can become a destroyer.
We later meet scientist Josephine and learn of her remarkable achievements in technology by watching her interact with an artificial intelligence and move about her highly advanced lab, but we also learn what drives her. She has lost her son at age 12 and has some related goal in mind for all her work. “I don’t have time to cry”, she says, indicating how driven she is.
Writer Victor LaValle includes an essay in the back of this issue where he talks about some of the sources for this story and the inspiration behind it, and he isolates fear as a driving force, fear which leads to anger and destruction, and thereby to a cycle of revenge. He talks about how author Mary Shelley’s motivation in creating the novel Frankenstein may well have been the death of her child, leading to contemplation of death. LaValle conceives here of a woman, Josephine, who wants to create life, but only to use it for vengeance.
In this opening chapter, setting the stage for the narrative to come, LaValle and Smith set a tone where we see the drastic effects of unchecked anger, and we begin to get a glimpse of things to come. At the same time, there’s a very human element at work in this brewing tragedy–good motives underpin the monster’s attempts to save the whales, perhaps, and certain the motives of the charity workers to do the same. Josephine’s motives are understandable too–to do something, anything, to add to the story of the loss of her son. To stop the story from ending at the moment of his death. And yet–how far are these characters willing to take things? Does anger have an ultimate goal, or does it just bring destruction?
[Variant cover by Brian Stelfreeze]
Dietrich Smith’s artwork on the series, with Joana LaFeunte on colors, create an interesting blend of realism, horror, and sci-fi tones which are all things present in the original Frankenstein novel, too. By keeping the artwork coasting over the surface of realism, the artists are going to bring us closer to the emotional impact of destructive events as well as the emotional drives of the characters.
We can look forward to a powerful statement in this series about human nature and the darker side of our most relentless aspirations. Check out the first issue for the prelude to this very modern gothic tale.
Victor LaValle’s Destroyer #1 is in shops today, May 24th, 2017.